Thermoplastic Polyester Engineering Resins
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Published: November 2012
Thermoplastic polyester engineering resins, sometimes referred to as terephthalate engineering resins, include polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polycyclohexylene dimethylene terephthalate (PCT). These products are all thermoplastic linear condensation polymers based on dimethyl terephthalate (DMT) or terephthalic acid (TPA), but on different glycols.
Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) resins and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) engineering resins are high-performance, high-molecular-weight materials that can be converted into functional components and parts that are in turn used in a diverse array of assemblies for automotive, electrical/electronic, appliance and industrial equipment applications. PBT resins and PET engineering resins share many of the same markets; however, PBT is consumed in much larger volumes than PET (accounting for about 87% of the total consumption of PBT and PET) because of its easier processability and shorter processing times.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of polybutylene terephthalate:
Globally, the main applications for PBT are in automotive markets (accounting for about 50% of total consumption including electrical/electronic uses), while nonautomotive electrical/electronic applications account for about 25%. Automotive applications account for the largest use in North America, Europe and Japan, while electrical/electronic applications are most significant in Other Asia. Most (70–80%) PBT is compounded with glass fiber and other materials to modify properties. About 15% of PBT is consumed in alloys, particularly with polycarbonate or PET, although it can also be blended with elastomers.
In China, the fastest growing segment is expected to be for lighting parts, as the Chinese government announced plans in 2008 to phase out incandescent lamps in the country and promote energy-saving lighting products nationwide. Exports of alternative lighting products will grow rapidly as the United States, Europe and a number of other countries are also in the process of phasing out traditional incandescent lighting. PBT is used heavily in compact fluorescent bulbs, but less so in LED lamps, which are expected to experience the greatest growth in the lighting market.
Some PET engineering resin is derived from postconsumer PET bottle and industrial waste. PBT and PET share many of the same markets; however, PBT is generally preferred because of its technical advantages even though it is more costly. PET is used primarily in the same end-use markets as PBT—mostly automotive and electrical/electronics.
Growth in consumption of polybutylene terephthalate in Asia will be about 6% annually, as a result of rising affluence which is driving car sales, consumption of electrical and electronic goods, and growth in the construction sector. In the mature areas such as North America and Western Europe, growth should be about 3–4% annually.
During the last decade, global growth for polyester engineering thermoplastics was well above that for most engineering resins.